You need a touchdown and a two-point conversion, to tie.You're only five yards from the goal line and there are three minutes to play. Your quarterback has completed 16 of 22 passes. A sensational day. To avoid a defeat that can end your dreams of a national championship, what plays do you call?
If you're the University of Maryland football team, and you're somehow worked your way behind West Virginia 24-16, and you've played a remarkable second half to avoid complete embarrassment, this is what you do:
You run the ball four times. Your quarter back has been throwing strikes all day, but with a last chance to get a tie you run the ball four times. You send the tailback to the right for two yards, then to the left for nothing. The wingback goes wide left for one,and then you're on the two-yard line with one more play.
Now do you thrww it?
No. The quarterback rolls right and keeps it. Running strongly, he is suddenly stopped by two tacklers for no gain. Nothing. Maryland was a 24-16 loser yesterday, and that's the way it ended, with a whimper.
Larry Dick, the quarterback, wasn't upset that he threw no passes down there. The coaches call the plays for him and he believes they know best. Over in the West Virginia locker room, the winning quarterback, Dan Kendra, said he was amazed when Maryland ran the ball four straight times from the five-yard line.
"Especially on third and fourth downs," Kendra said. "Larry Dick is a helluva quarterback, and I couldn't believe he didn't get to try one pass."
Somebody asked Dick if he would have liked to throw one, and the quarterback said, "If you're going to be national contender, if you're a Top 10 team and you've got first down at the five-yard line, you gotta have enough people up front you gotta have enough class to blow it right in. I figured we'd take it right in the way things were going. I couldn't believe we didn't take it in in one or two plays."
But on fourth down it came to a passing quarterback trying to run the ball in. And that's what West Virginia was waiting for. "In the films whenever Maryland gets down close the quarterback takes it in" said Harold Woods a West Virginia cornerback. "So I was looking for it."
And Woods positively destroyed Dick. Flying, the cornerback struck the quarterback in the chest with his helmet. Dick later said he should have pitched the ball to another back. True. Or he should have given it to his mother for safekeeping. It made no difference really because Maryland was not going to score on the ground against West Virginia. Woods flattened Dick. Hello ground. Bye-bye national championship.
The Maryland coach Jerry Claiborne said he ran the ball four times because "it's a lot easire to play pass defense down there close." Just two minutes earlier only five plays earlier Maryland tailback Alvin Maddox had tried a pass from the 13-yard line. Interception.
"We'd had our success by running" Claiborne said. "The time we threw the ball we didn't have much success and we were trying to knock the ball in there."
Last season when Maryland won all 11 regular-season games before losing in the Cotton Bowl Claiborne built an offensive line of irresistable strength. Maryland ran over people and when it came time to do it yesterday when Maryland needed only five yards for a chance to tie the game the offensive line wasn't up to it. Only one starter returned from last year's line.
To blame the line for yesterday's defeat though would be ludicrous. Maryland lost to a team it beat 24-3 last season and it lost in humiliating fashion. West Virginia led 21-0 after a quarter and 24-0 at halftime. In those two periods Maryland tortured the purists at Byrd Stadium by committing countless crimes against perfection. Which is to say they stunk a lot.
They fumbled away the game's first punt setting up West Virginia's first touchdown. They botched up a defense allowing a simple off-tackle dive to become a 54-yard touchdown sprint for the second score. A defensive back forgot where he was supposed to be and West Virginia had a 54-yard touchdown pass. There was roughing the kicker spearing more fumbles interceptions. Offsides. And you thought Bert Lance had troubles.
Maryland played well in the second half. Its best offensive weapon was the pass with Dick aiming at Vince Kinney a 6-foot-3 split end who caught seven passes for 121 yards. The defense so poor the first half was magnificent the last two quarters giving up only 77 yards to an inspired West Virginia team that considered this game a season-maker.
"We needed to beat Maryland or Kentucky or Penn State - one of them - to make it into a bowl game" Kendra said. "Beating Maryland - I can't believe it. Maryland is a class team a great team. I don't care if it was 2-0 I'm very happy. Thank the Lord."
The West Virginia locker room was a shambles of delight. And the happiest man of all was Buzzy Thornton, a defensive end who was in only two or three plays. While he came to College Park, his wife, Sandra, stayed in the hospital back in Morgantown.
"She called me at 11 o'clock this morning to tell me I was a daddy," Thornton said. "A boy no less. Harry Tyson Thornton. We'll call him Ty. Man, he is good-looking. And you know what Sandra said to me on the phone? She said the best present I could give her would be beating Maryland."
Buzzy Thornton, new father, smiled. "I knew this was going to be West Virginia's day."